In any change process or transformation, there is resistance. It has always been so and it will most likely always be so in future. Unless humans change this as part of our evolution. A common fallacy is that I or people in general have to work against this resistance. Whether I have targets and goals for myself that I want to achieve or for projects and programs in businesses and other organizations.   

“Resistance” or “your own resistance” is therefore a key player in a change process. As soon as you want to change a status quo, these force fields will start up. To understand resistance within businesses and other organizations, it’s important to understand how resistance arises in people and what functions it fulfils. When you understand the function of resistance in people, you can begin to understand resistance in a group dynamic context. Maintaining the status quo is certainly often one of the first reasons named. In the following blog, we want to look at least one level deeper. 

So it’s important to shed some light on the function of resistance. Within change processes in businesses and other organizations, there are three important categories of function, i.e. there is a limited number of motives why people and therefore whole departments of an organization may develop resistance:  


Resistance has either a protective function and/or  


Resistance has an aggressive function (anger) and/or  


Resistance has another function!  

All three function categories have one thing in common: firstly, an allocation can be made whether the relevant resistance category relates to one person or a group of people, or indeed a thing, so if something else is the focus. Using the example of a protective function, this would mean:  


Is this resistance protecting a person or a group of people?  Or protecting something else? (e.g. beliefs, job losses…)  


Then the question is what they are being protected from.  

If you want to successfully work with the resistance, a deeper understanding is important. This is the only way you’ll get the key to resolve or even positively use the energy of resistance. Very often, not enough focus or attention to detail is paid in this sense at the beginning and during the course of transformation programs. But it is worth it, as resistance can develop very strong pockets of energy. If you put this energy to use for you and your projects in a positive way from the get-go, you will uncover tremendous treasure that can be positively used for challenges in the business or organization step by step.  

The aggressive function of resistance is the oft-encountered anger and perceived helplessness in the face of decisions that managers and team members feel are made above their heads. But this aggressive function can also encompass resistance between areas of a company. While the protective functions often encompass rather passive resistance strategies among managers and team members, aggressive functions tend to result in more active resistance strategies. The benefit here is that “loaded anger” makes this quite visible. On the other hand, passive protective functions tend to be more difficult to spot.   

Therefore, different approaches are necessary to uncover why it is so important to recognize, analyze and negotiate with resistance in its detailed forms.  

“Resistance negotiation” is a successful concept that you can use to minimize resistance to your desired changes. You’ll save a lot of energy, time and stress if you work with the resistance!  


©Brian Jackson